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Unscrupulous labour hire operators must be stopped

14 July 2015 By ACTU

Unions call for a public registry of labour hire companies, a rigorous licensing system and a banning of rogue operators to protect hundreds of thousands of workers.

The Fair Work Act must also be amended to recognise that both labour hire operator and host employers have a role in observing workers' rights and entitlements.

The Senate Inquiry into the temporary visa system will be heard in Adelaide tomorrow and will conclude in Canberra on Friday.

Pop-up labour hire operators with nothing more than a van and a phone can disappear when things go wrong and reappear under a new name a week later, getting away with misconduct and a skirting of responsibilities.

It is estimated the labour hire market oversees three to four per cent of the workforce, comprises of between 2000 and 3500 agencies and cover over 350,000 workers in industries including meat processing, warehousing, agriculture and horticulture.

As middlemen, unscrupulous labour hire contractors are able to take a significant cut from employee wages; in one reported case passing on just one fifth of the money paid to them from an employer to workers with hundreds of thousands of dollars remaining unaccounted for.

Labour hire workers have told of feeling unable to report abuse, exploitation, safety issues or injuries suffered for fear that exercising that right would lead to censure, the loss of shifts or the loss of a job altogether.

Unions want laws around labour hire that bring Australia in line with the rest of the OECD.

Canada, Korea, Japan and many European countries including the UK operate licensing systems or codes of conduct that protect the rights and entitlements of labour hire employees.

It's time Australia acted to close loopholes that allow renegade operators to profit from unacceptable practices without consequences.

Quotes attributed to ACTU President Ged Kearney:

"We have a situation at present where rogue operators can set up shop and then when things go wrong they simply change their name and their phone number and start again."

"This is not how most businesses in Australia operate."

"The curtain needs to be pulled back on an industry which is currently expanding, operates without adequate checks and balances and stands accused of exploitation and abuse."

"The Fair Work Act must be amended to recognise that both labour hire operator and host employer have a role in observing workers' rights and entitlements."

Media contact: Eleni Hale 0426 717 833

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Telephone: 03 9342 1440